When my kids were little, summers were tough enough to balance summer camps and fights over the same toys, surrounded by a floor of opportunity.
“Mom, this is mine.”
“Mom, she won’t share.”
Given the time parents and children have spent at home amid pandemic lockdowns over the past year, both sides are looking for new ideas for this summer.
Consider toys and activities that encourage STEM learning. With science, engineering, technology, and math jobs growing, children need an early understanding of the concepts they face in higher grades and college, let alone the workplace. From simple math skills to assembling robots, girls and boys have a wide variety of options available to them.
My youngest recently completed an engineering degree. I asked her: “What inspired you?”
“Riddles,” she answered succinctly. In her spare time she solves all kinds of puzzles, from colorful landscapes to small metal ones that need needle-nose pliers. Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, from digital puzzles on the computer to putting together toy models.
Taking things apart and putting things back together is great for young minds. Very young children are often introduced to this concept with building blocks and Legos. How do they stack up to create a tall tower? How do they become a toy car with wheels? How do we add some technology and get it moving?
My other daughter remembers going through our local charter schools for Girls In Technology days. Participants were able to register for various workshops ranging from basic programming to robotics. For those long summer weeks when nothing else is going on, think about how to set up STEM activities at home!
Bake together and discuss the steps and science behind how the ingredients work together. Working in the garden together, talking again about how the plants grow and need both water and sun. Dust off your children’s microscope and talk about how germs are examined and vaccines are made. On a clear night, lie down under the stars and talk about it. Look for meteorites together.
Promote smart use of technology by balancing both computer and device time with physical activity. If the computer becomes too babysitting, consider working with neighbors and family to plan outdoor activities and take turns during the summer.
After working and teaching at home for a while while my kids were in elementary school, I know how quickly time can go by on the computer. I also know how many hours children now spend playing computer games that teach valuable strategy skills, but also encourage a sedentary lifestyle. It’s a balancing act that requires attention to balance effectively.
At the advanced end, consider adding robotics to your child’s day. Recently, Keyi Tech launched ClicBot, a STEM robot to teach kids about robotics. Like putting a puzzle together, modular pieces come together to create a two-wheeled robot that responds to touch, sight, and gestures. Once assembled, kids and parents can experiment with over 200 configurations and two pre-programmed personalities before creating their own unique personality.
Assemble and talk through measurements. Bake back together and discuss measuring the ingredients and what if the measurements are wrong. Go on hikes and record your distances with one of the many apps available now. Try to beat your record in distance or time on your next outing. Go on a scavenger hunt with a ruler. Make a list of items that children need to measure before they find a special reward. Make it fun
As you teach STEM concepts, let the children safely explore their imagination and creativity, for example by not making them jump from a height to see if they can fly. Hang gliding together can teach the same wind and gravity concepts.
The most important part of this process is scheduling together. Children grow up so quickly and spending time together, exploring the world around us is incredibly valuable to both parties.
Author: Sarah Peppel